...,1st Draft

Chapter 22 – Aftermath of Ramadi 225 Mar

The War According to Rory Quinn, Part Six

According to popular author Malcolm Gladwell, the three main agents of change in Tipping Points are the Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor, and the Power of Context. All three of these are evident in the series of Tipping Points which Rory Quinn describes in his re-telling of the Iraq War in six phases. The Law of the Few is evident in the out-sized role played by the Al Qaeda leaders on the one hand — the 1 in 50 on average in the insurgent cells who were the most violent and committed — and by the Sunni leaders like Sheik Sattar and the police chiefs on the other hand.

The Power of Context comes into play in various forms. One of the aspects of the Power of Context is the Magic Number of 150, and the role that human brain capacity has in making groups of that size natural petri dishes for a new idea. As a scientist quoted in Gladwell’s book observes, “At this size [150], orders can be implemented and unruly behavior controlled on the basis of personal loyalties and direct man-to-man contacts. With larger groups, this becomes impossible.” Captain Mainz was at once a formidable wrestler who challenged Mejia — the best ground fighter in the company — to a fight within days of assuming command while also a formidable thinker who had studied the main concepts of advanced 4th Generation Counterinsurgency in seminars with William Lind and Quantico while those ideas were being drafted into the updated, Department of Defense-wide manual. Within the Context of the 150 Marines of Lima Company, Mainz’ influence was felt thoroughly. Halepaska and I both still remember the personal characteristics of Lima Commanding Officers like Captain Dodd, who had a habit of plopping down beside surprised machine gunners on exercises and acting as A-gunner. An intellectual tipping point took place within Lima Company in the period between the 2005-06 and the 2007 Ramadi deployments — a tipping point that was exemplified at the platoon level by Mujica-Parodi and Humphrey, and at the company level by Mainz and Larson.

The Stickiness Factor in the Tipping Point Phases of The War According to Rory Quinn was simply Maslow’s Needs Heirarchy. Both the Marines and Al Qaeda were competing for the People, and the framework for the competition was the Needs of the Populace (City) — from Basic Needs up through Self Actualization. A counterexample for this use of Maslow’s Needs Heirarchy could be the failure of the Israeli Military to make lasting gains in Lebanon in 2006 in part because Hezbollah made more comprehensive plans to address the Hierarchy of Needs at all levels in the contested areas.

“By March 31st, 2007, the People have cleared the city of Ramadi,” continued Rory Quinn in his overview to Doug Halepaska at the 3/7 command post. “Since April 1st, there has been almost not one single attack in the city.” Quinn punctuates the date, writing “Ramadi Cleared” on the whiteboard, and marking the end of Phase Five of his Six Phases.

“Now from April 2007, to the Present [October 2007], this is the re-building. This is the same concept as Phase Two, from March 04 to April 04. The people in April 1st, 2007 looked up from their six months of intense combat with Al Qaeda, assisted by the coalition, but it was not us clearing Al Qaeda from Iraq during Phase Five. It was the People. And when they would be overwhelmed, we would assist with presence, like go to their position, and flag their morale, and say, ‘you can do it.’ But it wasn’t like we were running around with baseball bats. That’s something that I think gets misunderstood. It wasn’t the Americans who won the war. We prevented a loss. We held the system up as long as necessary so the people could stand up and win.”

“On April 1st, people looked up from the scarring six months of combat and they basically said, ‘OK, now what? I just signed my own death warrant on September 14, 2006, when I stood up with Sheik Sattar and his movement. If this doesn’t succeed, I am going to be murdered, my family is going to be chopped to pieces, I’m going to watch my wife be raped, and then I’ll be shot in the head. What now?’ And the challenge went out. It was almost like they held up a sign that said, ‘Make our lives better to show us that we made the right decision. Like, I have to see something from this.'”

“The exactly wrong thing to say on April 1st, 2007, is what we said on May 1st, 2003, which is, ‘whatever happens, happens. We can’t be held responsible for a museum being looted. Sometimes you don’t have the army that you may have in some future point in time, you only have the army you have, not the one you want.’ You have to fucking come to play now. Show me why I did this. The implied statement on the part of the population was, ‘If you can’t produce, if you can’t make me glad I did this, I will just go back to work for the terrorists.’ Because every day, Al Qaeda is trying to get them to go back, but they don’t want to. The Iraqis don’t need America right now, they want America. If we don’t give them anything, any progress, show them that their lives are better, that their children are healthier, that they are going to have a more peaceful existence, if we don’t give them a job, then they will have to go back and take $300 to lay an IED. So, this is the fight. The people won these phases,” Quinn points to Phases Four and Phase Five. “Phase Six is where the American need to win. And since April 1st, 2007, we have been re-building the shit out of Ramadi, rebuilding the shit out of Fallujah. Fixing electricity, fixing sewage, getting water running, fixing roads, getting adult literacy programs started, re-building schools, all this stuff — and this is the decisive moment because they signed their own death warrant when they signed up to fight the terrorists. They beat the terrorists. The terrorists are on their heels. If we do nothing, the terrorists will recover and they will get back in. So the current fight is all about providing essential services to the people, making their lives better, showing that we have a plan, which we didn’t in 03 and 04. We’re doing well. U.S. Policies have changed to facilitate us doing this. The Generals are the ones who are doing this. They have gotten it. They have changed their tune. The new Secretary [of Defense] is planning things. He is facilitating.”

“So, what are the papers saying today? They are saying that militarily it is going alright, but the political reconciliation is not occurring. The papers say, ‘The purpose of the surge was to give the Iraqis breathing room so that they can make political progress. You’ve done tremendous things, militarily, but the Maliki government is not making political progress so the surge is a failure.’ Well, here’s the kicker, what we can’t know in the present day [October 2007] but I am going to theorize for a second.”

Quinn returns to the whiteboard, near the end of Phase Six. “On October 23, 2007, when we put a thousand people on the street in the Ramadi Unity Parade, walking.” Quinn points to pictures. “This is MSR [Main Supply Route – a military term for road] Michigan. When we were here, on this stretch of road in 2005, 200 IEDs detonated from just the edge of this picture to the other edge. By contrast in 2007, there are hundreds of people in formations walking down the street. One machine gun on the long axis, enfilade fire, look what it could do — and this is what was going on, and there was no attack. So, let’s just say that the Ramadi Unity Parade on October 23, 2007, signals the end of the Sixth Phase. To pull this off is proof there is no terrorist activity in the city, and there hasn’t been for six months. And, we have repaved parts of this street. We’ve gotten the sewer fixed underneath. We are cleaning up the trash that used to be there. This is a gravel pile that is evidence of new construction that is going on. So, we may end up looking back on this and deciding that the Seventh Battle of Iraq started on October 2007 and ended on a date to be determined. And this was the political reconciliation. The Shiites have come out from Baghdad. In that parade, 80% of the marchers were from Baghdad, and they came here [to Ramadi] on purpose, saying the reason we are here is to demonstrate central government support for the Safwa [Awakening] Al Iraq — they don’t call it the awakening of Anbar anymore, they call it the Awakening of Iraq; it is going national.”

“The Iraqis tell me,” continued Quinn, “that all of Iraq envies Anbar right now. Everyone in Iraq wants a piece of the stability and prosperity that Anbar has. Everyone in Ninewah, in Diyala. So if this parade is evidence of the central government coming out and supporting Anbar, that could be the beginning of National Reconciliation — let’s just say that takes October 07 to March 08. That’s it, the war is won. We lost the first two battles. The people won the next three. We won the sixth. And the politicians have to win the seventh. The contribution of American forces is as follows. We had Abu Gharib. We had Haditha and another incident. Even though they are nothing like My Lai, they were black eyes. But, we have been at war for four years, and 99.9% of all soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have conducted themselves with discipline, a purpose, Strategic Corporal type of maturity, and in doing that we didn’t polarize the populous to hate us. We didn’t create blood enemies from every family in Iraq against the United States that will last for generations. Al Qaeda did. We just held the line. We could not be defeated.But we couldn’t win, until we got the people on our side, and they provided the victory.”

Quinn’s recitation of his Six Phases is largely concluded. But he also notes, “In my opinion, there is alot of grand standing in the [U.S.] military, saying, ‘We did this.’ We did, but in the sense of we made it impossible for us to be defeated. And we made it possible for the people to get on board, and when they did, we supported them absolutely. We risked lives. We never armed them, as far as I can tell. The joke here is, ‘Every insurgent I ever met had a gun already.’ When we turned those guys to work for us, they already had their arms already. What we did do is we gave them some logistical support, we gave them morale, we gave them leadership, we gave them an example, we definitely mentored these guys. We just won the Sixth Battle of Iraq, I think, with that parade. It could be a month ago, or a month from now — the parade is just the dividing line. The dates that I picked out are generic, but they are close enough. Of course, this whole timeline is also Ramadi-centric. Like Fallujah calmed down this summer [2007].”

Pointing to the phases on the whiteboard, Quinn notes that most Americans don’t understand these nuances. “This is very similar to the progression of World War Two. We were getting our asses smacked all over the globe for most of the year of 1942 until Guadacanal, which was so significant for the Marine Corps, since it represented our first victory. That was July 1942. Once the tide turned in World War Two, we started winning every battle. Phase Four [of the Iraq War According to Quinn] was a nine month period. Phase Five is a six month period. Phase Six is a six month period. It’s not only winning, but now we are gaining momentum and the phases are getting shorter. So, there’s every reason to be optimistic about the war, not pessimistic. But most people don’t have that granularity.”

[source: 10-25-07_Maj_Quinn_1stMeeting.wav minute 1:03 ff]

Reference: Larson14.mov,

Lessons Learned for Marine Lieutenants from Senator’s Son

Contrast and Compare Webb, Fields of Fire, with Larson, Senator’s Son,

6 Themes:
How does Larson contrast and compare his novel with Webb’s novel?

Memorial Day, 2009:

Michael Phillips, the same Wall Street Journal reporter who wrote a book about Jason Dunham, the recipient of a Medal of Honor for his heroism on April 14, 2004, filed a story about Lima Company, 3d Battalion, 8th Marines, from a little known town, Now Zad, Afghanistan. Lima 3/8 is engaged in a bitter, positional fight against Taliban/ Al Qaeda units. Like Lima 3/7 in early 2004, Lima 3/8 does not have enough manpower to fully occupy the town so the unit takes up positions from which it can control most of the town. Phillips writes, “From their entrenched lines, neither side is strong enough to prevail.” The description of Lima 3/8 in Now Zad recalls Gannon’s emails to Schreffler, asking for more troops to replace his combat casualties. But the main focus, both in early 2004, and in Summer 2009, seems to be elsewhere. Most significantly, perhaps, both in early 2004, and in Summer 2009, the Marines are not yet using the combined action platoon (Joint Security Station/ A-Team techniques). The Phillips article about Now Zad notes that a Marine platoon is occupying a post which is supposed to be a joint unit, but the Afghan unit is not able to fulfill the commitment.

Memorial Day, 2009:

The index tracking the 20+ year US Treasury Bonds have fallen 22% from the beginning of the year, with another precipitous dip just before the holiday commemorating the sacrifices of US service members. The Economist has just published an article reporting on a Brazilian bond rating agency that will lower the rating on US Treasury Bonds to AA from AAA. Other articles note that Brazil and China will start to conduct global transactions in their own currencies, instead of the US Dollar, continuing a theme from earlier in the year, when a Chinese central banker suggested that the US Dollar be replaced as the global reserve currency. The United States national debt of $11.3 trillion dollars is growing at an increasingly faster rate. The Crash of 2008 may not lead to another Great Depression, but it seems at least headed for a Great Recession, if not a Not-So-Great Depression. A PBS Frontline special report, “Ten Trillion and Counting,” places part of the blame for the roots of this fiscal crisis in the policy of cutting taxes while fighting two expensive wars in the years following 9-11. James Webb, now a US Senator, warned in a September, 2002, Washington Post editorial, “Nations such as China can only view the prospect of an American military consumed for the next generation by the turmoil of the Middle East as a glorious windfall… An “American war” with the Muslims, occupying the very seat of their civilization, would allow the Chinese to isolate the United States diplomatically as they furthered their own ambitions in South and Southeast Asia.”

The strategic and fiscal circumstances on Memorial Day, 2009, make it more important than ever that Americans integrate their support for our military with our economic policies. The interesting question that Phillips’ article about Lima 3/8 in Now Zad raises is, Does the next 4 years in that Afghanistan zone of action look like 2003 to 2007 in Anbar? Yet, from an economic standpoint, America faces a much more challenging fiscal environment in 2009 than it did in 2004. This makes it ever more important that, when we, as a society, send our armed forces — representing both blood and treasure — into a mission like Afghanistan counterinsurgency, a greater percentage of Americans understand what the Lima 3/8 Marines are trying to do. Defense budget cuts recently have pared back expenditures for the most advanced weapons systems, like the F-22 or the Future Combat Vehicle. Secretary Gates recently switched the General commanding the Afghanistan mission from one who had spent most of his career in armor to one who had spent most of his career in special forces. Reporter David Brooks suggested that the coming Summer, 2009, would represent a spike in casualties for US troops — including many Marines — as they pushed out from towns like Now Zad, into the population, just as the Marines had in Anbar in the years following 2004.

Perhaps Americans will not respond en masse to a moral imperative to better understand what Marines do in counterinsurgency. Perhaps a better reason for most Americans to understand Marine counterinsurgency techniques is simply self interest. What Jim Webb was arguing in September, 2002, is that an over-reaction to 9-11 would lead to a kind of geopolitical judo in which America did more harm to itself than our opponents could do through direct action. Joining him were other experienced military professionals like General Van Riper, General Zinni, and General Hoar, among others. But, having made the decision to invade Iraq, it was then in the national interest to fight the war as efficiently — and economically — as possible. The Marines started to see a tipping point in Anbar in late 2006, before The Surge announced in early 2007. Much of Petraus’ “new” counterinsurgency doctrine was built on techniques that the Marines were already using in Anbar. As Bing West put it in both Newshour interviews and his book, The Strongest Tribe, the “iron rods” in Anbar were Marine Rifle Companies, like Lima 3/7. Within the massive economic commitment that the US Department of Defense represents, a Marine Infantry Company remains one of the most flexible, effective, and powerful weapon systems. As the next 4 years unfold in towns like Now Zad, Afghanistan, for more Marine Infantry Companies like Lima 3/8 — while at the same time the United States faces serious questions about the rating of its national debt — it may be a wise and cost effective investment of attention and support if Americans were to take a focused interest in the plight of the humble Marine grunt trying to win that Small War.

Leave a Reply


This is a website for writing a book about Lima Company, 3/7, during 4 deployments to Iraq between 2003 and 2007.


This is a website for writing a book about Lima Company, 3/7, during 4 deployments to Iraq between 2003 and 2007.